Beauty in the Pain

 

There are thirty three joints in the foot.  For someone with an inflammatory joint disease, like Rheumatoid Arthritis, that means that there are thirty three places that can become inflamed and make walking painful.  Sometimes, when I walk it is the flexion of the foot that causes pain, sometimes it is the toes, the balls of the foot, or the ankle.  Regardless of where the pain happens to be on that particular day, the end result is still the same.  Most days, my foot hurts.  Walking hurts and even sitting hurts as the dull ache travels all the way up my leg and sometimes into my back.

 

There are nights where the slight pressure of the sheets on my feet could cause immense amounts of pain, not to mention the jerks and kicks from a slumbering spouse.  I lay in bed at night, curled in a ball, trying to shield my delicate feet from the world, crying out to God.  The ache that comes from the loss of the person I used to be, the person that I want to be, and the desperate yearning to be limited only by ambition.  In the dark of the night, alone with my pain, I grieve.  I cry for them, for the type wife and mother they will not have, and the worn down, irritable mother that has replaced her.  I cry for me.

 

In the midst of my pain, he gently speaks to me through his word.  “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.”  I reply, “Here I am Lord.  Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9).  He replies, “Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”(James 1:2-4) Distraught, I cry, “Hear my cry for help, my King and my god, for to you I pray!”(Psalm 5:2)  Gently, he answers, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”(Matthew 11:28-29) “I will cover you with my feathers, and under my wings you will find refuge; my faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4).   

 

Because of the pain, life is slower and life’s distractions have fallen away.  The Lord is   more near, more clear, more present.  His word breathes life into me, it is in prayer that I find peace, and through the spirit, I find joy.  I thank the Lord, without the pain, it is so easy to miss his beauty. 

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What brings you joy this Christmas Season?

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What brings you joy this Christmas season? I want to hear what brings you joy. At the end of the week, I will compile the answers:)

Last Sunday, I watched the children perform a Christmas Pageant. It was a tremendous blessing to hear the Christmas Story from children, to hear them sing Joy To The World, We Three Kings, Hark The Herald, and Silent Night. Some of the power had gone out and they did it “unplugged”. Sometimes, simple is breathtakingly beautiful. The lights were low, and the emphasis was on the birth of Christ. Joy….

Joy to the world,
the Lord is come,
let Earth receive her King,
let every heart,
prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sings
and heaven and nature sings
and heaven and heaven and nature sings

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Unwrapping the Gift

manger scene

Last night, my four-year-old son was in the bathroom washing his hands.  Anytime he is in the bathroom alone, with the sink on, I begin to worry.  Unimaginable things happen during those few quiet alone times he has in the bathroom.  Needless to say, five minutes after I had scooted him out of the bathroom, the sink stopped up.  I mean, seriously stopped up.  There was nothing going out.  On a side note, If you have ever smelled the nasty gunk that comes out of plugged pipes, it has a very “unique” smell that doesn’t easily wash off.  After four or five plunges, there was gunk on the mirror, the counter, in my hair, on my clothes, to no avail.  Finally I used a coat hanger to fish out globs of hair and gook.

I realized, this was not my son’s fault.   I turned and looked into his sweet face and sheepishly apologized for blaming the sink clog on him.  Without batting an eye, he responded “It’s o.k. Mommy.” and went back to playing.  His forgiveness was simple, pure, and heartfelt.   It was absent of the gook and the gunk, the irritation, and resentment that my forgiveness can so often be laced with.

I remembered the verse in Matthew 18:3 “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. ’”  When children forgive, it is simple and pure.  They forgive and they forget.  It’s beautiful.  They don’t forgive and file it away for later.  It is clear and it washes right through them.

Can I forgive like that?   Will my pipes ever be so clean that forgiveness can run through them without getting hung up on hurt,  tangled in pride, stuck in the gunk of selfishness?  I can tell you that I have been so stopped up with anger and bitterness, that the forgiveness could not get through.  It wasn’t pretty.  It was uncomfortable, and it definitely stunk.  Here’s the thing.  When you are all stopped up, it is just like a stopped up sink, it affects everybody.  Suddenly you realize that it affects parts of your life that you previously thought were completely unrelated.  It is like when the bathroom sink was stopped up, for some reason, I could smell that smell emanating from my kitchen sink as well.  Not only did I have to take care of the mess in the bathroom but now I also had to take care of the kitchen sink.

Because of Jesus, we can forgive.  We have been washed by his blood and now we are clean.  Is it always easy?  No, sometimes it takes some plunging to get that stuff out.  Sometimes, you’ve got to call in the professionals to get the job done.  Sometimes, you just need a bit of elbow grease and something to get down in there and rip that stuff out.  There’s no substitute for prayer and the Bible.  You can pretend that the gunk is not in there right up until that moment that it refuses to be ignored.  Trust me, I’ve been there.  I’ve said things to someone that I am ashamed of in the midst of my “plug up”.  I had my unimaginable moment.  If you would have asked me if I could ever say things like to someone, I would have been appalled.

What’s the gift?  Jesus.  His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of our sins.  In Colossians 3:13, it tells us ”Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  Forgiveness, it costs us nothing.  Done right, it is pure, clear, and it runs right through you.  It keeps you from getting clogged up.   We CAN forgive like children. Let’s praise Him from whom all blessings flow.  It is a sweet sweet blessing to forgive and be free from  the gunk.  Sometimes you don’t realize how much gunk you had in you until, like the sink, it is gone and then you never want to go back……

Season of Hope

bright candle

This past Sunday, we lit the first Advent Candle, the candle of Hope. What does that mean? As a Christian, we are so lucky. The thing that keeps our head above water is hope. We have hope for our future. Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

We have hope because we are no longer jellyfish just floating through the sea of insecurity, being tossed this way and that according the currents, or seemingly random circumstances. We are no longer a victim of other peoples decisions, whims, and consequences. We have a loving, heavenly Father who has plans for us. He wants us to prosper and to have hope and a future. Is it always going to be easy? No. Deuteronomy 8:5 “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your god disciplines you.” Sometimes, we will disobey and we will be disciplined. It will be uncomfortable. I’m so glad that our heavenly Father is more worried about our souls than our comfort, aren’t you? We are similar as parents. We have to be more concerned with our children’s character than their tears, don’t we? Yet, it is so hard for me to discipline my children when they have disobeyed. The tears and sadness rip at my heart. Hopefully, if I can lead them down the right path now, it will spare them from disaster later in their lives. God is the ultimate parent. Thankfully, he is so much better at it than I am. He sets us on a path. We no longer float randomly with the current like jellyfish. We are not at the mercy of the universe, we have an all-knowing, all-seeing, all powerful God in our corner who plans for us to be prosperous. (Romans 8:31)….”If God is for us, who can be against us?”

We have hope because we have a God who listens to our prayers. He hears us when we call. We are no longer Godless, set adrift in the sea, alone. We have a direct line to God, through Jesus. We are set on a prosperous course and when we stumble and cry out to our maker, he hears us. He listens to our cries. He is not like I am. Sometimes, I am too busy to listen to my children, or distracted, or tired. We don’t deserve it. Our awesome God who created the universe should not be listening to a girl like me. A girl who has turned her back on the light, danced in the darkness, and fallen so far into the abyss that the light wasn’t even visible. In all my humanity, I would say that I never deserved a second chance.

We have hope because when we seek him with all of our heart, we will find him. Even in the dark abyss, even after we have been dancing in the dark for so long that we have forgotten what it is like to live in the light, even when the light is so bright that it hurts our eyes because we have become accustomed to the dark, even when it hurts to stand in the light because the scars of the darkness become more visible to us, even when we know we aren’t worthy. When we look for him, we will find him. As a parent, I am not always available to my children. Sometimes, I need to just “check out” for a little while. I am so glad I serve a God who is always available, always attentive, always…..here….

I serve a God of mercy, a God of grace. A god who saw us in our sin and our deep dark abyss and sent his only beloved Son to die for our sins and our transgressions. During Advent, we are looking forward…Jesus is coming. John 1:9 “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The Bible tells us that (John 1:12) “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Through Jesus, not only are we given the light, but we are also given the right to become a child of God. Let’s let our lights shine this Advent season. Our light of hope. Let it permeate every cell of our beings.